Wot I Think: Risen 3 (aka The Risen 3 Report Finale)

What did I think of Risen 3 – Titan Lords, Piranha Bytes’ low fantasy, pirate-themed roleplaying game? I wrote nine diaries about it, primarily focusing on the absurd, and I was variously accused of sneering unreasonably and giving too much attention to something that didn’t warrant it. Both were probably correct, but my riposte to either is that I did it because I was enjoying myself. It’s just that sometimes I was laughing with the game, and sometimes I was laughing at it.

Just to recap, in case you can’t be bothered with the diaries, Risen 3 stars a nameless hero with a piratical background, who winds up getting his soul stolen and embarking on a series of not particularly piratical fantasy adventures to get it back and rid an island continent of assorted great evils. There are monsters to fight, there are quests to complete, and there is a semi-open world structure which permits hitting the main objectives in an order of your choice, as well as signing up with a faction of your choice. There is magic – including voodoo – but for the most part it’s about hitting and/or shooting things.

There’s also a strong tendency towards amorality, both fixed – in that almost everyone is a complete prick to almost everyone else – and optional, in that you are free to rob or even murder many NPCs so long as you don’t mind certain quests potentially being locked off as a result.

Did I like Risen 3? Yes and no. Thanks to a combination of freedom, playfulness and wildly varying production values, it’s a game that can’t help but generate oddball vignettes. Sometimes it means to – for instance, when I stumble across two goons who are utterly convinced that they’re being manipulated by sinister ducks – and sometimes it’s simply wretched, such as in the hateful characterisation of major NPC Patty or poorly thought-out purse placement. (Though for all I know, that was entirely deliberate).

Then there’s the singular Bones, a companion character whose bizarre cadence and scenery-chewing is too sustained and too amusing to possibly be an accident. I genuinely, truly, love Bones.

Sometimes, Risen 3 seems to understand that its best route out of a low-budget ghetto is to be consciously ridiculous. It knows it can’t even begin to compete with a Witcher or a Dragon Age or an Elder Scrolls in terms of production values and scale, and, on and off, it aims to be offbeat enough to make up for that.

Unfortunately, the moments of delectable strangeness, or low-key ambitiousness such as transforming into a simian thief or a short-range parrot, are offset by a tone that’s frequently simply unpleasant. This is a game whose dialogue uses swearing and passive aggression as a crutch, as an unconvincing and unappealing short cut to imbuing characters with personality.

Precious few of Risen 3’s hundreds of NPCs have a definable personality beyond this routine obnoxiousness, and I found myself skipping through a great many conversations not from boredom, but from a sort of miserable irritation. Worst of all was my own character, who would reliably bark out unprovoked and disjointed unpleasantries in his exaggerated Estuary accent, serving only to leave me feeling dissonance between he and I.

I appreciate there may be some authorial intent at play, a deliberate attempt keep things low down and gritty, but when a player can’t even empathise with his own character because he’s got no idea which of the proffered conversations is going to result in his randomly insulting the other party, I would argue that intent has gone too far.

Worse than all of this is a particularly concentrated vein of deep-seated chauvinism that runs through the game’s entirety. The few female characters in Risen 3 either openly use sex for personal and/or financial gain or are helpless victims, with no personality beyond that, with very few exceptions. One of these is a housewife who never leaves the kitchen, and the other is the lead character’s sister, who looks like she’s just stumbled out of a Pirates of the Caribbean spoof porno.

Furthermore, the male characters demonstrate a consistent contempt for the women around them, and sadly this includes the player character too. Many a conversation involved open and crude discussion of how a woman was there purely for the sexual benefit of the men, or to make grand declarations about how all women were using sex to trick men or obtain money. At one point, the player character even exclaims “women” in sneering agreement with an NPC’s sweeping generalisations. Yeah man, women. All of them. All the same. Greedy evil whores, every last one of them, eh? LOL zomg IKR.

I’m bringing this up not to nitpick, but because Risen’s depiction of women is far more unhealthy and damaging than is a game which neglects to include female avatars or sticks ridiculous iron boob tubes on those that it does have. This is not a single scene or single problematic characterisation: it runs through the entire game, and comes up again and again. In Risen 3, there’s an endemic attitude that women are lesser, women are whores, women are to be mocked, women are not to be trusted. It’s a nasty little boy’s club that scorns anyone with a vagina.

There is a case to be made for exploitation games that know they’re doing it, and that try to do it with conscious affectation and style rather than simply lazy stereotyping. There is definitely a case to be made for enjoying problematic media so long as one concedes that it is problematic. That is not the case here: this is simply ignorant, and backwards. Nothing is gained or improved because of how Risen 3 depicts its women. I found it exhausting, creepy and unpleasant to listen to, and at least some of the pauses between diary entries are because of that.

It’s testament to what Risen gets right that I persevered and intermittently enjoyed myself despite a regular burning desire to wipe the thick-headed thing from my hard drive. This is a game which offers little guidance and certainly no mandates in terms of what kind of roleplaying hero I should be. It lets me do what I want, and even if it struggles to make that freedom pay off, that fact it even tries to is what I most needed. While I wove in and out of a central plot – and key events must be triggered in order to progress in certain areas – for the most part I was free.

Free to concentrate on increasing my thievery skills, free to hop between the game’s half-dozen islands at my leisure, free to travel with or without a companion, free to roam, free to do most anything apart from choose how my hateful character spoke to others.

It’s a game more than capable of beauty too, even if so many of its words are ugly. Landscapes are lush, draw distances are long, colour abounds and mountains are there to be climbed. There’s too much incidental combat with angry wildlife to make this a sightseer’s game, but it has its moments.

It has its moments in fights as well, when I accidentally train a pack of three giant chickens into a pack of four fishmen and have to make do. It’s frantic, and until I’d invested a healthy amount of points into my sword skills it was often rather difficult too, but there’s a refreshingly organic quality to combat, and one that means victory feels sweet, not pre-ordained. There’s a bar brawl quality to it that I really enjoyed, a sense of desperation and chaos which feels in keeping with the rough’n’ready world.

That’s the thing about Risen 3 – I feel like a lot of what happens happens by accident, and is just for me. The reality is that every creature has been placed just-so, and that a relatively thin variety of enemies is being repeatedly presented in varying combinations rather than the game offering significant diversity.

Somehow, it hangs together anyway. I want to see what’s out there. I want to find treasure chests hidden in lost caves, or skill trainers who hang around campfires in the middle of nowhere, or mad men who want me to murder ducks for them. Hell, I even like it when my wilderness excursions result me in inadvertently completing half a dozen quests I hadn’t even accepted yet. Risen 3 is frequently messy, but to some to degree that’s a result of it being so organic and freeform, even though a fixed structure ultimately surrounds it. It’s a small game in many ways, but with a lot of discovery woven into it.

In other words, and I’ve felt this for a long time, I’d so love to see what Piranha Bytes could do given a big budget. Their foibles are very much on show here, but so is their tendency to fucking go for it. Even for something as simple and pointless as being able to sit on a chair because a chair is there. I love that stuff.

As much as the awkwardness, the wobbly writing and the ghastly attitudes often pushed me away from Risen, I’d still take its offbeat ambition and clumsy ambition over a slick, impersonal Diablo or a focus grouped Bioware effort. At the same time, sharper, caveman-free writing and a big spend on more accomplished voice-acting would be redempetive – would transform Risen from appealingly odd and into truly impressive. But maybe what’s special about this would be lost if it were able to pursue norms. Perhaps it needs to be as weird and awkward and unpleasant as it is. Perhaps that’s why I like it so much, even when I hate it.

Risen 3 has been out for bloody ages already.

109 Comments

  1. Rao Dao Zao says:

    I’m not sure what your conclusion is. You’d say the dev bytes off more than they can chew, or that they’ve risen to the challenge?

    • RedViv says:

      I think it is implied that next time they should not Go Thick on the dirty ruddy-faced teenage boy medieval fantasy.

    • KingFunk says:

      Not sure if genuine comment or start of pun thread. Or both.

    • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

      “You’d say the dev bytes off more than they can chew”?

      DINSDALE!

    • Geebs says:

      I think the message is that the game could do with a bit of titaning up

    • Ultra Superior says:

      spot on review

  2. KingFunk says:

    Pretty sure I’ll enjoy this. I played Risen on 360 (which looked horrible) and, although I was quite enjoying it, it got shelved when something else I wanted to play more came out.

    These diaries made me take a punt on Risen 2 for PC, as a quasi-demo while I needed something to play and I was waiting for this WIT. Started playing last weekend and am actually rather enjoying it. Combat is kinda shonky, but I like the way it is meaningfully tied to character progression. Exploration and treasure hunting have always been my thing and there’s enough of that to go around. I don’t mind the story and all the pirate stuff. Oh and it looks somewhat better on PC than console, even if not exactly a technical marvel.

    From what I can gather, Risen 3 is something of a refinement of Risen 2 with extra features, slightly less piratiness and (seemingly) more sexism. I think I can go for that.

    EDIT: For clarity, I say ‘I think I can go for that’ based on enjoying Risen 2, not because I like to play sexist games…

    • TheTingler says:

      At the very least, Risen 3 gets a lot of things right that Risen 2 got wrong. I couldn’t stand Risen 2 and ended up enjoying Risen 3 until the (very abrupt) ending.

  3. Asokn says:

    I won’t parrot out what others say about this game but it seems to have got its hooks into people, a real buried treasure. I wonder how many will pirate it.

    • alright says:

      For all the puns this is exactly the situation with Risen 3 for a lot of people.

  4. WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

    Pirates were for the most part basically seagoing rapists and pillagers. I can’t comment on Risen 3 itself, having disliked Risen 2 greatly, but it seems utterly absurd to suggest that Pirates of all people ought to treat women respectfully, unless of course the PC is herself a female pirate.

    • Alec Meer says:

      What about the wizards? And demon hunters? And gnomes? And fire golems? And angry giant bats? These are historically accurate factors, yes?

      • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

        But rape and murder and pillage are literally the only things pirates do. That is what a pirate *is*. OK the stuff you mention is historically bullshit, but I guess a pirate could do all the things a pirate does *and* encounter that stuff. If you make a pirate that doesn’t plunder (because that would be disrespectful to poor people, can’t have that) doesn’t get involved in sexual misdemeanours (because that would be disrespectful to women, can’t have that) and doesn’t generally do evil or immoral things at all, the *what the hell makes them a pirate*? The tricorn hat? Might as well complain about how the Wehrmacht in the new Wolfenstein game are anti-semitic.

        • Alec Meer says:

          It’s not a pirate game. It’s a game that has some pirates in it. The majority of people saying terrible things are not pirates.

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            Like I say, I haven’t played it. If that’s the case, fine. But from the general tone of the piece, and from the fact that the PC is a pirate, I deduced that pirates were being mean. To which my response would be “well…yeah.”

          • Ansob says:

            More importantly, it’s not a game that was developed by actual historical pirates which makes “but pirates were nasty, waaaaaaaaah” verisimilitude arguments really stupid. “Some pirates were historically mean” (because no, regardless of whatever poor grasp of history makes you declare that all pirates across all regions of time and space have always been rapists and murderers, this is not actually the case) does not excuse developers choosing to portray women poorly in the video game they have made.

            Also, before you make historical realism arguments, can I maybe suggest that you acquire at least a basic knowledge of the subject instead of just regurgitating media portrayals of things unquestioningly? Unless your goal was to specifically demonstrate that the way media portrays things has a tangible impact on people and that therefore games ought to not be sexist, in which case okay, fair enough.

        • blind_boy_grunt says:

          “But rape and murder and pillage are literally the only things pirates do”
          so how many of those things can you do in the game? I bet they don’t let you rape women, so what they basically did is take all the nasty stuff out. But they didn’t think the casual chauvinistic stuff is nasty. That’s a problem imo.

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            Presumably they wanted to make a game where people (pirates/colonists/whoever) are nasty without including distressing content like that, which would also skyrocket the age rating of the game and make its audience much more niche. Don’t you think airbrushing the nasty side of piracy entirely is a bit more insidious than just taking out the distressing bits? No-one would dare make a game where you play as an SS operative in WW2 that removed all the mean stuff, for example, whilst they probably *also* wouldn’t let you actually herd Jews into gas chambers. There is a middle ground I think, which conveys intent without actually explicitly distressing the audience.

          • blind_boy_grunt says:

            tbh i don’t know what to tell you. For my part i see this game and see more or less generic fantasy with a layer of pirates on top. In something like GoT the misogyny is part of the world and i think the complaint here is that the stuff comes not out of the world but from the developers. You see it differently.

          • DrollRemark says:

            Presumably they wanted to make a game where people (pirates/colonists/whoever) are nasty

            Perhaps they did. And Alec is saying that he dislikes playing a game with so many nasty characters. That’s basically all there is to it.

        • Bradamantium says:

          Is misogyny really THAT important to you in the authenticity of fantasy pirates et al?

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            Not in isolation, but pirates being basically immoral IS. The pirate good guy is a complete nonsense.

          • Ross Angus says:

            It’s quite possible to include misogynist characters in a text, and not have it in the least problematic: you simply need to also include some realistic female characters.

      • P-Dizzle says:

        “What about the wizards? And demon hunters? And gnomes? And fire golems? And angry giant bats? These are historically accurate factors, yes?”

        So you are upset that these mythical beings in a fantasy world in a video game are sexist? That is slightly worrying.

        • bill says:

          I think he’s upset that the non-mythical developers who made the mythical beings are sexist.

    • amateurviking says:

      I think the old ‘historical accuracy’ angle can be put to rest when the protagonist is a shapeshifting murder-jocky with magic voodoo pals running around bopping demons on the head.

      Edit: yeah, what Alec said.

      • montorsi says:

        But…but… the story demands they be called whores! Because the story is made up of words that wrote themselves!

      • KingFunk says:

        I don’t entirely agree – why not be able to have a setting with historical grounding PLUS fantasy elements, which is essentially what appears to be the case here. The general background is roughly based on colonisation of the Caribbean.

        However, the player should have the option to disapprove rather than just join in. Also endemic use and unquestioned acceptance by (almost?) all characters is undesirable.

        • Shieldmaiden says:

          I’ll happily hold up A Game of Thrones as a perfect example of a fantasy world rooted in medieval reality, which manages to make a sexist society a feature, rather than an assumption. It’s not perfect, and I think that the TV show has made some questionable decisions which made certain scenes come across a lot worse than in the books.

          • Wednesday says:

            I was going to mention A Game of Thrones and the rest of the series. The books are full of rampant, horrible misogyny, but A Game of Thrones is not misogynistic, quite the opposite. There is a difference, which the original poster seems to be missing, between a text containing misogyny and actually being misogynistic.

          • RARARA says:

            Y’know, every time someone brings in GoT as an example of how all the misogyny is a realistic portrayal of medieval times, I wonder if they are ever bothered about how every single lady there, regardless of class, have shaved legs. That can’t be historically accurate, can it?

            The folks who defend rape and pillage for the sake of ‘period accuracy’ invariably never seem to denounce midriff-baring boob armor (or that ridiculous Halloween corset up there) for the sake of historical context.

            It’s all rather… selective.

          • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

            Well, the shaved legs weren’t in the book.

            …I’m sorry. It’s a joke – but, see, it’s also true.

    • KingFunk says:

      Reasonably fair comment. However, this is a roleplaying game (emphasis on roleplaying) where (apparently) you have to endure your own unsavoury attitude to other characters and you can’t influence that. That would only really work if the game was intended to provide empathy by putting you in the role of a chauvinist, but I don’t think that is the case…

    • Premium User Badge

      gritz says:

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      We’ll just go ahead and delete everything in that wikipedia article and write “nothing to see here but rape victims and sex workers.”

      • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

        You must have missed the bit where I said “unless the PC is a female pirate”, then.

        Also, you may wish to consider reading the very first line of your own linked article.

        • Premium User Badge

          gritz says:

          The first line of that article says that women were a minority.

          It did not say “women in piracy only existed to be victims and objects”.

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            Yes because you are talking about women in piracy, not women affected by piracy or women abused by pirates.

            Just to be clear, are you disputing the fact that pirates were an overwhelmingly misogynistic group? I suppose Edward Teach was basically lovely towards women, was he?

          • Alec Meer says:

            The need for all popular fiction using pirates to be historically accurate over and above all else is why Captain Jack Sparrow calls every woman he meets a whore, of course.

          • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

            Captain Sparrow IS a rampant misogynist, though.

      • Dale Winton says:

        the protagonist does not call every woman he meets a whore either

    • iucounu says:

      Please go and read Scott Lynch’s response to a reader who criticised the female pirate captain he put in his second novel: link to fuckyeahscifiwomenofcolour.tumblr.com

      • Geebs says:

        Oh god it’s the ‘strong female characters must always, always dual wield’ trope again.

      • Ultra Superior says:

        Well, strange the author never once mentions that there actually were, in reality, women pirates.
        It almost feels like he shares the same world vision as the reader, though he goes against it.

        I don’t like this kind of vulgar style of writing though. Just by the number of profane adjectives used I guess the author “FUCKING SUCKS” at writing.

    • Mark Schaal says:

      Ah, I see someone has finally uncovered the true Secret of Monkey Island for us.

  5. vecordae says:

    You know, it is entirely possible create a story set in a time and place that is highly misogynistic, isn’t primarily about women, and isn’t an ideological parable and yet still portray women as actual people, rather than gameplay rewards.

    • KingFunk says:

      Indeed. Succinctly put. Also you could still have demons too. I mean, why not?

      • vecordae says:

        Demons are complicated because they can be people or not-people depending on the game setting, portrayal, and various other assorted factors.

        I have a flow-chart. It covers 37 square meters.

    • kament says:

      I’d say the problem here is not actually about how R3 portrays women. The game doesn’t portray men any better either (but that, strangely enough, is no big deal). It’s not like males there are intricately crafted, believable characters and females are not. The problem is there are simply no actual people in the game, male or female. Not even close. It’s just poor writing. As awkward as virtually everything else in the game.

      After all, the game even comments on the subject of sexism, so…

      • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

        Based on my experiences of R1 and R2, this sounds about right to me. AssCreed Black Flag as well, actually, with the possible exception of Welshy McWelsh himself.

      • lordfrikk says:

        Nah, it’s just that the writers are probably equally poor in interacting with women. The game is surprisingly self-aware when it wants to be so I’d definitely chalk it up to intention rather than a by-product of inability.

        • RedViv says:

          I have to thank PB for giving me THE point at which I turned complete Social Justice Barb. There is a bit in the making-of book of the Gothic 3 CE (which at some point I got for handful of change, because the game was utter rubbish) where a dev wrote about why there are no (NONE!) women in the game because, uh, see, it is so hard to decide as a team what an attractive woman should look like.

          It was after reading this and thinking “But why attractive… Oh. OH. Oh gods.” that I had to sit down for a few minutes because I suddenly realised why, and I think I might have entered a realm similar to the inside of the 2001 monolith, except with less pretty colours and stars and more useless and decorative and damseled and fridged female characters over and over and over and ov
          wait did I already tell this story in the comments yes I did on the first diary WHAT ARE THE ODDS

          • Awesomeclaw says:

            There are women in that game but I think they are all prostitutes.

          • RedViv says:

            I think this might have added to the confusion and pushed me over the edge.

          • Geebs says:

            “My god, it’s full of whores”

          • psepho says:

            That Gothic 3 story is one of most funny/tragic thinks I have ever heard. I am imagining the team meeting. If David Brent made videogames…

      • vecordae says:

        I’ve not played the game. I can’t speak to that. I did play Risen 2, however.

        The notion of “well, men aren’t written any better” doesn’t really say anything. A story where gender A is portrayed as inherently sexually aggressive and dominant, while gender B is portrayed as inherently sexually submissive and passive is one where both genders are poorly characterized. Yet only one of those genders is portrayed as active and dynamic, only one gets to make meaningful choices. Only one gets to be human, even if it is a terrible human. The other exists almost solely to be acted upon the by the former.

        And that’s the difference between a misogynistic setting and casual misogyny being part of what informs the entire gaming experience. If women mostly exist the story to be acted upon, to be rescued, to be romanced, to be oggled, or boned, then the misogyny is not simply a part of the setting, it’s also a part of many of the decisions that informed the game’s presentation.

        Even in the most misogynistic setting, women who are unpleasant, or unattractive, or simply not interested in the hero still exist. There’s still a place for all kinds of women, even if the story doesn’t ever focus on them and they never get any lines.

        • kament says:

          Except it’s not the case of dominant males and submissive females. Even that housewife Alec comments on actually and obviously dominates her husband (and, oh my, a sneering exclamation “men!” does take place at some point. More than once, actually). Hell, even a whore in R3 does not submit to men, despite her occupation.

          • vecordae says:

            Ah, well there you go then. I presume she isn’t a shrill harpy to dour kill-joy that exists to demonstrate how awful it is when women have the power in a relationship. ‘Cause if she was, that’s just more misogyny.

            Honestly, having women in the role of eye candy or harpy isn’t, by itself, a problem. It’s simply the limiting of all the women in the game to those roles that is. It’s the difference between saying “some women are like this” and “all women are like this.” A bit of diversity, even if it’s just in the background, helps to dilute the nastiness.

            It also helps to remember that such things aren’t binary. It’s not a case of “misogynistic/NOT misogynistic”. Often it’s about the degree of it present and the context it exists within. Everyone has their idea of what is and isn’t acceptable, of course.

          • kament says:

            What I was trying to say is that all PB characters regardless of gender are not so much characters per se as they’re functions. “Absent-minded mage”, “shady dealer”, “grumpy old soldier”, “powerful witch”, “wise shaman”, “runaway girl”—PB don’t develop those any further than that. Not males nor females.

            But that the game treats women as lesser beings is simply not true. Female characters are messy, awkward and poorly written—just like male ones, the game is pretty consistent in that regard. But they play a variety of roles in the plot and aren’t just there for the male gaze.

  6. Dale Winton says:

    Never noticed woman being portrayed in that way in this game (apart from Patty’s boobs) and I could not care less either. It’s a pirate game after all

    I did enjoy the game it has to be said.

    • lordfrikk says:

      Not sure whether it says more about you or the game if you didn’t even notice the pervasive degrading attitude towards women. I enjoyed the game, too, but it was very glaring at times.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Glaring to you, maybe. Some may not notice it, others may not give a shit, and it may not even be there like you think it is.

    • PopeRatzo says:

      I gave Patty’s boobs a 7/10. I held my nose, but enjoyed them nonetheless.

      • Dale Winton says:

        She had great boobs tbf

        The native woman were portrayed as powerful voodoo priests , I never noticed that either or felt the need to comment on it until now

  7. zer0sum says:

    Extra! Extra! Games by men, for men and about men are Chauvinistic! Read all about it! Volume 8,312 on sale today!

    Seriously I’m ready for RPS to reduce whether this game is chauvinistic down to a single sentence. It’s getting a bit annoying to read about it in every fucking article. I get it already. You can just say “this game, like most other games, has shitty female characters and treats female characters like shit.” Four paragraphs of a games review devoted to this is frankly too much. It doesn’t inform my purchase decision in any way, and it’s not actually saying anything new.

    • Alec Meer says:

      “every fucking article”

      Do bear in mind I’ve resisted going into it for eight feature-length posts about the game previously. Also go and tot up mentions of these issues in any other article run on RPS today, or this week, or month, or year. Your complaint is that you hear about it at all, let’s be honest here.

      • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

        To be fair Alec, you mentioned it with the pirate costume one as well, might have been the first one IIRC. Though I agreed with you on that one, that costume was bullshit.

      • zer0sum says:

        Well, you know, critique is critique and you’re free to critique as you please. It is well-written critique.

        I think I just perhaps saw too much coverage of this game given its quality.

      • RARARA says:

        @zer0sum:

        *AHEM*

        … 99.55% of the articles published across ten of the larger gaming sites (including RPS) made no mention of subjects regarding sexism or misogyny. So less than half a percent of gaming coverage even mentions these subjects, let alone is singularly about them. In fact, of the ten sites studied, RPS was the 7th least likely to mention the subjects, with less than one percent of our articles alluding to the topic. So, objectively, RPS dedicates the tiniest fraction of its content to a topic many are claiming obsesses us.

        Source

    • Herkimer says:

      You appear concerned that an opinion-based website has opinions.

      One of the major concerns of the RPS writers is the way that the industry depicts women. I don’t think that this is any great surprise at this point — or shouldn’t be, in any case. It’s not their only big concern, but somehow the comments sections don’t fill up with “Ugh again RPS drop your social agenda pls!!!” comments when they discuss consumer’s rights, for example, or region-based release dates or pricing policies.

    • Lamb Chop says:

      But importantly, it does inform my, and I assume many others’, purchase decision. An openly misogynistic game, as opposed to one that openly deals with misogyny, is an immediate no-buy for me, which makes it quite valuable to see in a review. And Alec’s teasing out whether it simulates misogyny in a considered way or is actually itself misogynistic allows me to make an informed decision based on my own interpretation of Alec’s words, whereas if he just did it in a sentence, it’s a blanket assertion and I can’t make my own judgment. It’s the difference between a review saying, “this game has a bad narrative” and “this games does this and this with its characterization and plot arc and for that reason i found it to have a poor narrative.”

      I’m not saying you have to care about this, but many people do, so it being in a review is valuable. At least as valuable as the explanation of the absurd humor it uses in encounters with demon duck turkeys.

      • puzzlepiece87 says:

        Seconded on the purchase decision information front.

      • Premium User Badge

        laiwm says:

        Yep. I share a flat with two women, one of whom doesn’t play games. Knowing that this is one that I’d have to play in my room with the door shut and headphones on is useful information to me. Explaining most games is usually embarrassing enough without having to field questions about why the women all have their tits half out.

      • Ryuuga says:

        Yep, this was the final nail in the coffin for me as well. It’s very good to know this in advance.

        Thanks for the excellent review, Alec! Keep up the good work.

    • RARARA says:

      I usually get turned off by all this juvenile shit these days, thus it’s rather helpful to me.

      So thanks Alec!

      Thalec.

    • Nereus says:

      Oh, hey.

      Just dropping in to say that the treatment of women in this game absolutely effects whether or not I will purchase it. So, you may not find Alec’s observations pertinent, but I do. I love tropical islands. I also love women. Ideally, I’d have a game that both celebrates women and tropical islands, whether you want to cling vehemently to the whole piracy theme or not.

  8. PopeRatzo says:

    So, 7/10?

  9. damoqles says:

    All of you guys who played a Risen game but don’t know any of the previous Piranha titles: you NEED to play Gothic 2. Preferably Gothic 1 and 2, but at least Gothic 2.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      Better yet, ignore the horrible Risen games entirely and just head straight for the Gothic series.

    • n3burgener says:

      The first two Gothic games are some of the best games I’ve ever played. Gothic 2, especially with its expansion, is the singular reason I’ve never been able to appreciate any of the Elder Scrolls games since (and including) Morrowind. Sadly, everything Piranha Bytes have released since Gothic 2 has been disappointing for various reasons. Risen 3 has its problems, but it’s the best PB game I’ve played since Gothic 2, and that’s reason enough to be excited. If anyone’s looking for a second opinion from a die-hard Gothic fan, feel free to check out my review here.

  10. Mhorhe says:

    Okay this WIT holds a couple of exaggerations in my opinion.

    Most important of which being the “””player can’t even empathise with his own character because he’s got no idea which of the proffered conversations is going to result in his randomly insulting the other party”””

    I’m sorry, but this is just plain wrong.

    Which of the following dialogue avenues would you think is insulting:

    “So is war the only thing left to you?” vs “Bullshit! You’ve built a church for the humans here!”

    “You fucking idiot! What do you think that is?” vs “You think this comes from a happy ancient civilisation” the latter of which is actually mildly amusing since the object in question is a cave entrance shaped like a skull..

    YES, you CAN be a total prick for little to no reason if you want. You can also be a normal, if perhaps a tad ironic/cynic, character.

    Much like, oh, I don’t know, ME’s The Angry Renegade, or KOTOR’s violently-incapable-of-having-a-normal-conversation would-be Sith.

    And this is coming from someone who always plays RPGs as the white knight/light side/paragon guy.

    Yes, there is a surprising amount of fucks and shits flying in all directions.. on the other hand, your interlocutor is, 9 times out of 10, a cutthroat, a pirate, a thief, a soldier, a crook, a murderer..

    None of the mages drop f-bombs. None of the natives. None of the Demon Hunters!

    I would say it’s quite obviously an intended side effect of the way this world is built.
    Everyone knows the Gods have abandoned humanity. Which is on the run and continuously on the verge of an apparently inevitable extinction.

    Everyone is a completely amoral, “look out for number one”. The only ones that profess to any ideals generally turn out to have a pretty damn crooked set that basically boils down to “We get to say, everyone else toes the line”. (The one notable exception are the Natives). The main character is a pirate, a thief, a murderer, a drunk, a bully. This is also an adequate description for about 60 to 70 % of the world population.

    Moreover, from his dialogue lines, it’s pretty clear the guy you’re playing believes in nothing, cares about nothing, and is completely jaded about everything.

    He’s in this to save his skin. Well, his spirit. Same deal. Humanity gets saved while he’s saving himself..well, great.

    You might not like such an avatar, sure. But the tone of him and most other characters of his world are in perfect accord with how that world works.

    • kament says:

      As for F-bombs flying around I’m still amused at one dialogue.

      (German VO): Was?
      (English subs): What the fuck are you talking about?

      And things like that happen a lot in the game.

      • Mhorhe says:

        I was actually amused by the way the guy reacts to things, at least sometimes. It could be an overload of being the nice guy in too many games..

    • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

      It’s not exaggeration, it’s just opinion. I’m not entirely opposed to playing as a mysoginistic bastard in a mysoginistic world of bastards, I just appreciate the heads-up.

      • Mhorhe says:

        But that’s just it – my intent was exactly to give a headsup that you CAN, but DON’T HAVE to play as a cuss spewing bastard.

        Misogyny is there to stay, though, sadly.

  11. Mhorhe says:

    Fun fact: the original Gothic, the one that spawned the series to which Risen serves as a spiritual successor, had NO female characters. At all. Just 3-4 unnamed drones that served as the head honcho’s harem. None of them had any dialogue lines. It WAS a male only medieval work camp, tis true.

    It still seemed a very odd choice even back then.

    As for Risen 3.. without a doubt, this is a misogynistic world. I think a degree of misogyny was unavoidable due to how the world was built and what kind of characters inhabit it. Not that that would excuse it, mind. At least there’s not a single brothel or sex worker in sight..

    With that being said.. the WIT really put a lot of emphasis and righteous anger on that. A lot more than was necessary to my mind, but that’s par the course for RPS.

    Your pron-costumed sister captains your ship after your demise. The singularly most important character in the Native camp is a woman. The pirate base smithy has a woman in charge. Yes, you rescue a few damsels-in-distress.. and about 3 times more gentlemen-in-distress.

    The way Patty puts the main character in his place when he makes the most unarguably sexist remark in the entire game is pretty damn good.

    It’s a far cry from perfect, but also a far cry from how horrendous the WIT puts it.

    • kament says:

      I too thought about the way PB have come since… nevermind Gothic, let’s look at the more recent Risen or Risen 2. Of course, there was always Patty, but aside from that I don’t remember any prominent female character. Well, there was some girl who spent the entirety of the game in a bathtub…

  12. Brosecutor says:

    Alec is spot-on about the game’s issues and merits. I recently tried out Kingdoms of Amalur, (which was heavily endorsed by RPS) but couldn’t get into it’s artificial world. Risen 3 is another league in world-building, even when other aspects of the game are weird or flawed.

    • jama says:

      I took over 1,000 screenshots while adventuring through the world of Risen 3. Most of them landscape shots.

    • green frog says:

      John was enthusiastic about Kingdoms of Amalur. Jim, who wrote the WIT, was more critical, though not outright panning the game.

      Kingdoms of Amalur is pretty much the opposite of Risen in more ways than one, and that’s neither a compliment nor an insult, really.

      • Brosecutor says:

        Right, but John praised the game world of KoA and how he found it very engaging, when to me it was just a pretty backdrop and a collection of hollow, empty faces spewing gibberish and quests at me.

        Risen 3, for all its flaws, builds a world I can believe.

  13. Naum says:

    Some things I noticed during my playthrough:

    1. The combat is way too easy if one abuses the dodge roll. I went through the entirety of the three faction islands without spending a single attribute point, fighting golems with pretty much the starter equipment. Much as I’d like to think otherwise, this is probably not due to my 1337 skills but rather the fact that the enemy AI is utterly incapable of adapting to the basic strategy of roll-hit-roll-hit ad infinitum.

    This has major implications: money was never a factor (because I didn’t need to train or buy anything); Piranha Bytes’ trademark walling off map areas with nigh-invincible monsters didn’t work; and most importantly, there was next to no sense of progression because every task thrown at me was instantly solvable. This is in stark contrast to how PB games usually operate, and even in Risen 2 I found the difficulty curve to be satisfyingly cruel, at least in the beginning.

    2. The Guardian/Mage standard attack is way OP: ranged, interrupts, unblockable, decent damage. Much boredom was had after joining that faction (and immediately bumping my Magic attribute to 70 or so). Moreover, Guardians get a chest unlocking spell that renders the thievery-related skills mostly superfluous.

    3. I did not find the misogyny (or indeed everyone’s general unpleasantness) particularly grating because it’s so overt and over the top that there’s no emotional impact whatsoever. All I got out of it was frequent laughs at the sheer absurdity of virtually every social interaction, but I can definitely see why one might dislike the humour.

    4. The overarching story is even more lacklustre than usual and goes absolutely nowhere interesting. However, PB’s strength has always been in the smaller scopes and story arcs, and there are definitely some good ones to be found throughout the game.

    5. The graphics really are pretty great, which is not something I’d be expecting out of Piranha Bytes. They definitely stepped their game up in that department, particularly by improving the previously abysmal pop-in distance by a lot. Characters and animations still look pretty weird, though.

    Really Important Edit:
    6. After a somewhat lengthy tutorial, it is possible to leave Patty stranded on an island inhabited by kind of unfriendly natives, an incompetent Guardian and the crew that just mutinied against her. I found that very gratifying.

    • kament says:

      The thing is, you don’t even have to employ hit and run tactics for easy win.

      My playing character was rather fond of his sister, boobs warts and all, so as soon as he came to he went searching for her. Didn’t find her at his first port of call, but he found a shotgun, which turned out to be even better. Shotguns never miss in the game, stun most opponents and don’t shout “Fucking bastards!” all the time. A bit later my Nameless Hero discovered the power of a throwing knife—always hits, stuns anyone (except for gorillas, those are pretty tough).

      After that it was pretty much a walk in the park, even before he mastered magic (and for quite some time after that). He tried to be nice even to wildlife—he gave way to territorial beasts and sneaked past sleeping monsters that attack on sight, but pretty soon he became an unstoppable killing machine anyway.

      Before that it was horrible, though, but mostly because I avoided constant dodge-rolling around. Hence the hardest battle was when my NH got in a swordfight with an old fat cracknut on Kila. NH even stooped so low as to roll on the ground, but that required some precision timing, too, so the fight was won purely through save/load. ))

  14. Fatboy85 says:

    On the apparent issue with women in this game:

    I’d like to treat this game as if it would take place during the industrial revolution, except MAGIC! The Wizards are some church affiliated warriors, the Inquisition is the foreign legion/royal navy, The natives are just that with every superstition about them being actually true and the Demon Hunters are some occult society you are basically born into, like the Templars.
    That said, with this historical bias theres no reason why the way women are treated in the game isn’t fitting. Only after this industrial revolution where gender roles were slowly eroded (largely because a human was only measured in his capacity to work and not his gender) was there actual movement towards an equality based gender treatment.

    On the subject of Patty: She’s the daughter of a pirate captain. This guy was killing his way through the south seas for decades and has become a legend. She is more often called Steelbeard’s daughter and not by her real name. So she acts accordingly, because she has learned to adapt herself to the surrounding. It my be implied that she used her gender to her advantage, but what has been explicitly stated in the game amounts to being purely flirtatious with no actual interest in anything more. So what? It fits the general setting of the game and the protagonist wouldn’t actually do anything else if he could use his charms in that way.

    I feel like you use our current moral standarts to project certain behavioral expectations onto characters that, given the world they live in, are completely unjustified. Sure, there’s a certain excitement created when characters behave opposite to the rules the world has laid out for them. This dissonence plays with our expectations and is a nice tool, but on the other hand having a world that feels completely whole with characters acting “naturally” in their enviroment is euqally nice to have. And that’s what i see in Risen 3.

    B.t.w.:
    Here we have two male characters exclaming “women” in a derogatory way. I’m actually just rolling my eyes at their idiocy, not because of the way they said it, but because they are too stupid to know any better.

  15. Eukatheude says:

    Y’all really oughta play Gothic.
    I don’t think there was anything quite like it at the time.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      The best thing about Gothic (among several good things) was its rain effect. It was totally exaggerated, but you could, say, go into the mouth of a cave and look out and see the rain being blown into the cave mouth by wind.

      None of this “go under something and look up and the rain comes through it” nonsense.

  16. colossalstrikepackage says:

    Wow. Haters certainly gob

  17. colossalstrikepackage says:

    Wow. Haters certainly gonna hate. But I’m with RPS on this – no excuse for shoddy writing and sexism – it really puts me off. As do the ‘freedom of sexism’ protesters who want it kept in.

    I also wanted to say that I for one am glad that game diaries are back. Would I have liked longer, more detailed entries, like the XCom series? Yes? Do shorter formats cheapen the diary format? Hells no. Does the quality of the game dictate how much fun can be extracted? I think so.

    Alec and the other diary-writing geniuses, hear my plea. Please write more gaming diaries. They are still hands-down the best things on RPS, or any games site.

    • P-Dizzle says:

      So killing is fine but sexism is not in a video game? You are strange.

      • maninahat says:

        Well there probably is far too many games with killing in them, and I’d like to see some of the bigger budget titles devote to more time to simulating different forms of human interaction beyond murder.

        But in answer to your question, yes there is a difference and I am less tolerant of one over the other. Comparing depictions of killing with depictions of sexism against women, only one of those things is done at the expense of a portion of gender. You can usually find some thematic, mechanical or plot justification for why killing is in the story (even if it just boils down to “killing is fun!”), but sexism usually only features for one of two reasons; to try and make a “gritty/realistic” atmosphere, or to to serve one audience (heterosexual men) at the expense of an other (all women). I don’t buy either reason; the depiction of sexism is usually at odds with the period setting, and there are already too many games made with only men in mind, and too few that are made with them taken into consideration in the writing.

    • Mhorhe says:

      Because disagreeing with something makes one a hater, obviously.

      Also, “freedom of sexism” protester? The hell? Way to take the moral high ground.

  18. Jackablade says:

    I wonder if the arsehole characters (less so the sexism) is in part a result of an awkward translation from German. I remember Gothic 3 was much the same. I actually rather enjoyed how my main character would act like a complete dick to everyone he met, friend or foe, for no particular reason.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      I think the attitude thing has been a feature of Piranha games since Gothic. I mean you start the game (Gothic 1) in a rogue prison colony run by assholes (literally the first thing that happens is someone punches you in the face). The degree to which the player character is himself an asshole is left mostly open to interpretation.

      • Mhorhe says:

        Not just the attitude but the world that sustains it too. As you say, in Gothic 1 you’re an inmate in a work camp ran by murderous assholes most of which are ex-cons. The explanation spreads a bit thin in later installments but is still there (for instance the guys running the southern desert realm in Gothic 3 were genocidal assholes who worship the evil god)

        All of which goes for Risen as well.

  19. HisDivineOrder says:

    Pirates (and sailors in general) don’t have the most stellar reputation of treating women well.

    Even Austin Powers knew that.

  20. lofaszjoska says:

    Out of the rougly 1500 words in thos WIT, 500 is about the perceived sexism in the game.
    Based on this article you’d think not invoking concerns regarding sexism is the most important thing every video game should do.